The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 28, 2013

Indianapolis church mourns three who died in bus crash

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis congregation on Sunday mourned the deaths of their youth pastor, his pregnant wife and another member who were killed when a church bus overturned with just a mile to go in a return trip from a Michigan summer camp.

Saturday's accident devastated members of Colonial Hills Baptist Church, who had been anticipating a joyful homecoming with the 37 people who were aboard the bus. Youth pastor Chad Phelps, his pregnant piano-teacher wife, Courtney Phelps, and chaperone Tonya Weindorf were killed, said deacon Jeff Leffew.

Dozens of people were injured in the crash, which happened near Interstate 465. On Sunday, six teenagers remained hospitalized, including one who was in critical condition.

Dennis Maurer, a 68-year-old congregation member who was driving the church-owned bus, told authorities that its brakes failed before it struck a raised concrete median and flipped on its side, Indianapolis police said.

The Phelpses, who were in their mid-20s, were expecting their second child, Leffew said. Chad Phelps was the son of the church's senior pastor and became its youth pastor late last year, he said.

"We're going to have a long road, but God is good," Leffew said at a Sunday news conference.

The couple's nearly 2-year-old child, Chase, was injured in the crash. He was treated and released from a hospital Saturday, IU Health spokeswoman Sally Winter said.

The bus had nearly completed its 365-mile journey from Camp CoBeAc, near Prudenville, Mich., when it overturned about a mile from the church, where parents were waiting to pick up their children who had just spent a week praying, zip-lining and playing basketball.

Weindorf, the 51-year-old chaperone who was killed, had five children, Leffew said.

"Tonya was at camp because she has a special-needs child who wanted to go, and she wanted to go and make it a good week, and according to her husband, it was a great week, and that's who Tonya was," said Leffew, who sent four of his own daughter to the camp.

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